CSAA Central Station Excellence Awards: Raising the Bar
When CSAA and SDM, the awards co-sponsor, announced this year’s winners at a breakfast during the 2009 Electronic Security Expo (ESX) conference in Baltimore, Md., it was done with a lot of pride and respect for an outstanding field of winners and applicantsâ€”and a surprise for everyone in attendance. For the first time, in response to the superiority of this year’s entrants and in an attempt to give some very deserving central stations and industry members recognition, two honorable mentions were also awarded in each category.
“This year’s judges were very impressed by the high-quality of all the participants,” said Steve Doyle, executive vice president, CSAA. “Many of them had judged before and commented that it was the hardest it has ever been. In fact, it took a second conference call to finalize their choices due to the outstanding nature of the participants. Since there were so many deserving central stations, managers and operators, the judges decided to award honorable mentions in each category. The judges were also impressed by the quality and the efforts of the submissions themselves,” added Doyle.
The awards are designed to recognize any UL listed station, and applicants are not required to be CSAA members. The purpose of the awards is to promote the value of central station services, honor those who have made significant contributions to the industry and promote the level of professionalism of UL listed central stations.
On the following pages you’ll get a glimpse at what made the judging panel’s decision so hard…as we take a closer look at members of the industry that have raised the bar of excellence in monitoring.
Central Station Operator of the YearJeffrey Karabinos approaches his job as a daylight shift supervisor with a ‘mission first’ mentality. It comes from four years in the militaryâ€”a useful background in his eyes.
At the central station, “there is always a job that needs to be done, and I always try to do my job with a ‘mission first’ mentality, especially when help is needed,” Karabinos says. “That motivates me to pick up the overtime, switch days or serve on a committee. When there is a need I try to do the best I can to help out.”
It isn’t just words. Karabinos is always there for the central station and his fellow employees. He’ll switch shifts if his coworkers need itâ€”even if it means working 7 to 14 days in a row at one timeâ€” as has happened before. In the past three years, Jeff has clocked 1,997.5 hours of overtime (686.5 hours in 2006; 694.5 in 2007; 616.5 in 2008).
Why pick up the overtime and work the long stretches?
“My military experience formed a good work ethic and level of commitment to the job and seeing it through to the end,” Karabinos said.
He was hired as a dispatch operator in August 1997, but was promoted to daylight shift supervisor after just three monthsâ€”a position he has held for the last 11.33 years. Karabinos holds CSAA Level 1 Central Station Operator and CSAA Level II Advanced Operator certifications, and has supervised a team of 10+ operators for more than 11 years. Jeff also has a very strong aptitude for the technical side of the central station. He is a “techie” who can explain things in layman’s terms for those who may not have the same level of understanding. As an active member of the Technical Support and Training Committee, Jeff has prepared and presented several technical classes to the supervisors and managers.
As a member of the Disaster Preparation Committee, Jeff has done extensive research on disaster planning, and he has helped design testing. He is responsible for conducting disaster simulations for all four of Vector’s central stations. Jeff also is on the Disaster Book Enhancement Committee.
In the middle of it all, Karabinos always keeps the customer as his number one priority, and values the role he plays as an operator.
“It is hard to hire employees who really want to actually do the customer service part of customer service,” said Anita Ostrowski, assistant vice president/western region, Vector. “Jeff sees it as his job to do customer service. It is not an imposition for a call to come inâ€”it is a chance for him to do his job. He fights complacency head on, reminding operators that even though you hear hundreds of alarms a day and very few are an actual alarm, you cannot lose that urgencyâ€”and he fights to keep that in the central station at all times.”
Central Station Manager of the YearJames Riti, central station manager at DGA Security Systems, New York, is a familiar face to anyone who has toured the location.
DGA specifically designed its central station to create a unique customer experience and encourages every customer to take a tour, so that means Riti is a familiar face to a lot of people. According to DGA Security Systems, he is a polished speaker and a strong representative of the company and its capabilities.
Riti knows the company well. He joined DGA’s monitoring center as an operator right out of college in 1991. He worked an overnight shift and quickly advanced to overnight central station supervisor. Riti’s time at DGA was briefly interrupted by a year on active duty in the Army Reserve in 1992. When he returned, he supervised two day shifts at DGA and began managing the dispatch of service calls. Then, in 1995, he was named central station manager, a position he has held ever since.
During his time in the industry, Riti has completed CSAA Level I and Level II training, is a Security Industry Association (SIA) certified operator and trainer and holds a FDNY certificate of fitness.
Now he focuses on training people to do what he once did as an operator. Fifteen years ago, Riti began adapting the existing operator training curriculum to meet evolving requirements as procedures and systems changed. Over time the whole program has been developed by Riti and is now primarily set by him. One notable change is that Riti created a permanent training position within the central station and made training a distinct department.
DGA Security Systems has an average tenure of six years, a testament to DGA’s competitive compensation and benefits, and also to the corporate culture that Riti has worked hard to create. “James has made promotion from within the norm at DGA, continually improved central station performance and built a fiercely loyal team,” DGA said in its award application.
James and his entire team remained at the central station for more than 24 hours after the September 11 attacks. James’ demeanor and leadership, as well as the training his staff had undergone, helped maintain order and focus through the chaotic event.
In fact, Riti’s demeanor is something that stands out to Stanley Oppenheim, president of DGA Security.
“Riti is always calming, careful and reflective,” Oppenheim points out. “He observes and then reacts. He brings a calm, mature manner to his job well beyond his years, and his calmness is a notable part of his success. He is educated, intelligent and has kept up to date as technology has evolved. He is a tremendous resource for our team.”
Central Station of the Year
Location means a lot to DGA Security Systems Inc., this year’s 2009 CSAA Central Station of the Year. The company’s central station is located on the lower level of the World Diamond Tower, located on 580 Fifth Avenue, a building that anchors the New York diamond district (more than 80 percent of the diamonds and jewelry sold in the United States pass through this district) and is situated just steps from Rockefeller Center in the heart of midtown Manhattan. The location puts DGA Security within walking distance of many of its customersâ€”diamond and jewelry firms.
The company’s position in Manhattan is both a hard existence and something that is close to the heart of Stanley Oppenheim, the company’s founder and a life-long New Yorker.
“It is not easy, running a central station in New York. Sometimes I shake my head in disbelief at how difficult it can be. But ultimately, we are New Yorkers and we love being part of the fabric of New York. Regarding the challenges, we succeed because we adapt.”
For example, DGA Security adapted to the famous New York traffic by operating a fleet of installation cartsâ€”allowing its technicians to walk to jobs instead of fighting traffic.
In addition to the tough operating environment DGA Security has adapted to, Oppenheim gives some credit to DGA’s tough customers for the company’s win.
“We are uniquely tested on a daily basis,” Oppenheim said. “We regularly must meet the highest standards of quality in the performance of our services because our subscribers, who have such great value, trust us with that value on a daily basis.”
After acquiring the space in 2000, DGA embarked on a five year project of building a new central station, with its own twist on how to do it. In addition to completely demolishing the existing premises and removing 72 years of accumulated debris, DGA Security involved its operations and marketing teams as a unified group in the process of designing the modern monitoring facility. Both camps had the same goalâ€”to turn the central station into the focal point of the company.
“We were very conscious during the design process to involve operations and marketing together,” Oppenheim said. “Central stations are generally mainly designed by the operations people. As critical as that input is, and as focused as we were on creating an operationally excellent station, we also wanted to make the central station a valuable marketing tool that would brand our central station.”
The team designed a central station with an open floor plan laid out to accommodate visitor tours. Visibility and transparency were considered in every area of the central station, from the data center to the back-up battery arrays. Professionally recommended lighting and dramatically high ceilings complete the striking effect. A multimedia conference center sits behind a 16-ft.-high glass curtain overlooking the heart of the central station. The conference center also includes an alarm history museum.
The careful planning paid off with a central station that is exactly what DGA was looking for.
“We actually comment on a regular basis on how happy we are with the final design,” Oppenheim said. “As one of our most successful projects, it has worked better than our best expectationsâ€”and it is a vital marketing tool.”
In addition to marketing its central station, DGA also places emphasis on its UL listing, attributing both pieces as part of its success in obtaining certified business, especially since the high-risk and high-profile commercial client’s insurance carriers usually require UL listed systems. The emphasis shows. DGA issues more UL listed central station certificates than any other independent company in the United States. The company’s technicians wear a patch denoting DGA’s central station as being UL listed and every installation and central station response vehicle carries the UL listed logo.
DGA achieved its CSAA Five Diamond Certification in 2006 and highlights its Five Diamond and CSAA membership in its marketing programs as well.
DGA Security is also one of the few central stations approved by the New York City Fire Department, adhering to unique procedural requirements and submitting to FDNY inspections. The company is also a member and sustaining donor of the Jewelers Security Alliance, which joins jewelers and AHJ to share information and develop best practices for reducing crime in the jewelry industry.
Looking to the future, Daniel Oppenheim, vice president of DGA, said, “There is no standing still....There’s always a higher bar of excellence to reach.”
Central Station Operator of the YearName: Jeffrey Karabinos
Company: Vector Security, Pittsburg,
West central station
Title: Daylight Shift Supervisor
Tenure at company: 11.63 years
Tenure in current position: 11.33 years
CHARLES BALLETTO â€“ DGA Security SystemsCharles Balletto, senior central station operator, DGA Security Systems, New York, the 2009 Central Station Operator of the Year honoree, has been described as showing “grace under pressure”â€”and that comes during any situation, even getting to work on time. In March of this year, New York experienced a late blizzard that crippled public transportation and brought the downtown to a virtual stand still – but Charles was early for his shift. When New York suffered a transit strike in December 2005, Charles managed to get to work from his Queens home by riding his skateboard over the 59th Street Bridge. It makes sense that he has a perfect attendance record over the last three years.
“Balletto is highly competent and a person who possesses those leadership qualities that are not regularly available in everyone,” Stanley Oppenheim, president of DGA Security, says. “On any shift where he is the supervisor, he is the leader of that team and every member recognizes he would be the most competent person in any situation that came up.”
Stewart Pittenger â€“ Vector Security â€“ East Central StationBeing named CSAA Central Station Operator of the Year Honoree isn’t the first award Pittenger has received to acknowledge his skill and commitment as a day shift dispatch operator at Vector Security’s East central station located in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. During Stewart’s 10 years of employment at Vector, he has been named the Central Station Employee of the Month five times, and he was also Vector Security’s Central Station Employee of the Year in 2003.
The passion Pittenger exhibits for his job is one of the reasons he stands out.“Pittenger has a passion that you don’t normally see in an employee and he exhibits it daily,” Ted Stoler, assistant vice president, Vector Security, Eastern Central Station, said. “Many operators do their job and go home, but he carries a passion and enthusiasm and a need to do it right here every day. That’s unique.”
Pittenger has successfully completed the CSAA Level I and Level II training certifications, and Vector’s Assistant Supervisor training program.
Central Station Manager of the Year
Company: DGA Security, New York
Title: Central Station Manager
Tenure at the company: 18 years
(14 in current position)
Greg Hurst â€“ Monitronics Security
“My background gives me invaluable knowledge on the other side of the industry [law enforcement] and helps me better appreciate the false alarm issue and constant need for our industry advancement, customer education and overall reduction of false alarms,” Hurst said. “It helps me communicate with the authorities at times and allows me to better explain police actions to my team.”
Hurst successfully managed Monitronics’ transition from two monitoring platforms at its central station to just one platform in 2008.
Suzie Nye â€“ AvantGuard Monitoring Centers
“I love learning new things at my job, anywhere from mastering a new monitoring software to assisting with a new training program,” Nye says.
Central Station of the Year
Location: New York
Type of subscribers: Commercial – 97.5 percent
Residential – Less than 1 percent
Central Station of the Year: Honorees
Doyle Security Systems Inc, Rochester, N.Y., has served the communities of upstate New York and northwest Pennsylvania for many years. Family owned and operated since 1919, the company provides commercial, residential and medical alarm systems, CCTV, access control and safe and lock services and products for its customers. The company owns and operates a CSAA Five Diamond certified and UL listed, fully staffed central station in upstate New York, and has offices in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y., as well as Erie, Pa.
Doyle’s commitment to its communities is strong. The company supports a number of local charities and makes its conference room available at no cost to multiple industry organizations. This commitment was recognized several times in 2008 as Doyle was the recipient of the Rochester Business Ethics award, the company’s president was nominated by the Rochester Small Business Council as “Business Person of the Year” and the company won the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Marketplace Excellence.
ADS Security, Nashville, Tenn., takes its mission statement to “provide the highest quality “life safety” electronic security services to residential, commercial and governmental customers in the southeastern United States” very seriously.
“At ADS, our level of customer service is unsurpassed â€”we are passionate about life safety and dedicated to providing our customers with the best service possible,” said Christine Mudrak, central station QC supervisor, and the 2007 CSAA Operator of the Year. “We are also fortunate to have assembled one of the most innovative leadership teams in the industry with a constant eye on the future.”
In 2007, ADS looked to the future and built a new state-of-the-art central station at its current 18,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Nashville.
ADS has 27 full-time operators and has an average employee tenure of 6.7 years. All that experience pays off while working with the company’s 20,498 commercial subscribers and 43,601 residential subscribersâ€”numbers that both keep growing.